MAP TO UTOPIA
An interactive performance, connecting the new media, combined with role-play experience, with technological resources.
Consept: Ceren Ercan, Frank Heuel, Mark Levitas, Annika Ley, Fehime Seven
Director: Frank Heuel
Dramaturgy and Texts: Ceren Ercan
Virtual Design, Stage and Costumes: Annika Ley
Game Design and Development: Fehime Seven
Production: Mark Levitas
Sound Design: Ömer Sarıgedik
Academic Advisors: Miguel Sicart, Güven Çatak
Production Manager (Germany): Jennifer Merten
Press and Public Relations (Germany): Claudia Grönemeyer, Eugenia Fabrizi
Project Assistants: Halil Ünsal, Ruth Baltes
Production Assistants: Yiğit Efe Çetin, Sıla Demiral, Selen Üçüncüoğlu
Documentation: Zeynep Dilan Süren
Digital Stage Design Assistant: Buğra Erkenci
Actors (Turkey): Alican Yücesoy, Elif Ürse, Ersin Umut Güler, Gizem Erdem, Okan Urun Actors (Germany): Philine Bührer, David Fischer, Georg Lennarz, Laila Nielsen, Philip Schlomm
Cities should open the opportunities, connect people to new people, free us from the narrow confines of tradition — in a word, the city should deepen experience.RICHARD SENNETT
Map to Utopia project is created by the collaboration of two theatre companies between Germany and Turkey.
fringe ensemble from Bonn, Germany, exists since 1999 as an independent theatre group. Since then, its founder and artistic leader Frank Heuel has developed and produced more than 80 pieces, series and projects with his professional ensemble. theaterimballsaal, a free theatre-house in Bonn, is the basis for the productions and performances.
Platform Theater was founded in 2016 by director, actor and academician Mark Levitas and dramaturg, writer Ceren Ercan to focus on contemporary forms and content. Platform’s main purpose is to stage contemporary texts of Turkish playwrights with a unique stage directing approach and to explore how to engage theatre with new media forms.
Early-Stage: How Did We Start?
We examine space in its complexity and significance for a utopian urban landscape. The question of the openness of spaces, existing boundaries/barriers between spaces and transit between spaces can be asked quite differently today by using digital techniques and media. The model of the open city (Richard Sennett) was our inspiration and guide in the beginning. It provided us with an impetus to communicate and offered a key to peace to be discussed.
And with this starting point, we came to our main questions:
What if citizens were actively involved in decisions about the principles that govern city life? What if they had the possibility to be heard and to discuss their opinions in a public yet protected space? How would they experience simultaneously leaving their comfort zones, overcoming barriers and meeting people they have never met before? This aspect of urban development ensures a high quality of life beyond the exercise of building a functional infrastructure: the daily journey of equals towards a desirable future where dialogue guides us to and creates the Map to Utopia.
First Outcome Of The Research: Yeldeğirmeni
For the first phase of the three-year research process (2019-2022), we chose Yeldeğirmeni as the study area and rented a shop in the center of the district. We focused on the history of the region, its current dynamics and to the state it could transform into in the future. For this phase, we lived in the neighborhood for 1.5 months and experienced the district with all its dynamics. We held various interviews with more than 30 people who have big socio-cultural and socio-economic differences.
People coming to the experience are given a printed out map, a card and a mobile app to download their phones. We have determined 10 special points in the district. Each point has significance and carries an important historic value. The app we developed behaves like a tool to look through the past of these locations. So that the participants are being part of a ‘treasure hunt’ game in the street.
As a result of long interviews, the stories of 3 people we chose representing the past, present and future of the district were played by 3 different actors. We brought the audience face to face with the different dynamics of the district through an 89-year-old Jewish woman who has been living in this district for 65 years, a 15-year-old teenage boy who dreams of becoming a football player, and a cafe owner who has just come to Yeldeğirmeni and opened a trendy place with the gentrification.
In the last part of the performance, we played several games concerning the future of the district and the idea of living together by bringing all the audience together around a long table. At the end of the experience, we created a new three-dimensional virtual neighborhood with live performance using a VR application.
Map to Utopia: Online Experience
Experience is in a structure where theatrical performance and ‘game’ phenomenon are going alongside. The Map to Utopia universe consists of 4 districts and 1 agora. Each district is symbolized with a different color. There are 5 actors in the experience, including 1 moderator in the agora and 4 mentors in the districts. 40 participants who experience the game are divided into two parts as residents and city designers before the game. Each district has a discussion topic that needs to be resolved. For example, how to solve the parking lot issue in the neighborhood or what should be done for the security problem in the neighborhood. City designers are there to help the residents of the district in solving these problems. They learn about the district and about the characters they play, through the mobile application.
In October 2020, we created a hybrid version of Map to Utopia. We call it hybrid because we allow audience to participate both in theatre venue and online via Zoom.
In the hybrid version which played only in Germany, only 20 audience take part in the theater hall and another 20 is participating online in the zoom. Four performers, each assigned a district of the fictional city, are in locked cabins with windows. Another performer acts simultaneously on both levels and has the function of a moderator. A control center in the middle of the room enables participants in the hall to talk to Zoom participants. Those in the zoom are the residents of the neighborhoods, those in the theater take the position of city developers. The audience in the hall had to keep their distance and tend to sit in the seats assigned to them. However, they could discuss with each other and select individuals who would contact the residents at the control center / computer and display station in the middle of the room. At the end of the performance, the large displays on all sides were used to switch on all Zoom participants so that a discussion with the audience could take place.
For the year 2022, we wanted to improve the Map to Utopia universe with all its elements and transfer it to a web platform. Among our criteria when designing the web platform, our priorities were to enable a system in which people from many different countries can participate. We wanted to give a freedom of movement in our universe with this new tool. We created our new video communication platform Hybi-Galaxy and used it for our new hybrid performance.